By T. D. Thornton
The New York Racing Association (NYRA) is siding with the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) in the Linda Rice lawsuit. Rice is suing in Schenectady County Supreme Court to get her three-year license revocation and $50,000 fine for “improper and corrupt conduct” overturned while she continues to train under a temporary injunction.
On Thursday the court accepted a friend-of-the-court brief from NYRA arguing that if Rice does get her penalties tossed out, her presence as an admitted seeker and user of inside race-entry info will undermine the integrity of racing on one of the nation's most prominent circuits.
“As operator of the three largest Thoroughbred horse racing tracks in New York, including Belmont Park–the racetrack that housed Petitioner's stables and year-round training activities–NYRA respectfully urges the Court to consider her request for preliminary injunction relief in light of the intense public interest in protecting the integrity of Thoroughbred racing and the public's continued confidence in its operations and legitimacy, and deny the motion,” NYRA stated in its brief, which had been submitted in a proposed format July 19.
On May 17, 2021, culminating an investigation that had stretched over five years, NYSGC members voted 5-0 to agree with a hearing officer that Rice's years-long pattern of seeking and obtaining pre-entry information from NYRA racing office workers was “intentional, serious and extensive [and] inconsistent with and detrimental to the best interests of horse racing.”
Rice had testified that she did nothing wrong by using inside sources to gain a competitive advantage over other trainers. When the penalty got handed down, Rice contended in her court filing that it was “unduly harsh.”
The ban went into effect June 7. Two days later, Rice's legal team secured a temporary injunction from the court that has allowed her to resume training while the legal process plays out.
But a letter to the court filed earlier this week suggests that Rice's lawsuit might soon be severed into two separate cases heard in two different New York courts.
Three of the four “causes of action” in Rice's complaint involve Article 78, which is a state law by which a petitioner asks a court to review a decision or action of a state official or administrative agency to determine whether such action was unlawful.
The fourth involves the alleged “arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement” of “unconstitutionally vague” rules by the NYSGC, and Rice had requested that the court resolve that matter by issuing a separate declaratory judgment.
Now attorneys for both sides concur that the Article 78 proceedings belong in a different court.
On Sept. 7, assistant attorney general Chris Liberati-Conant wrote that “Respondents-defendants agree with petitioner-
plaintiff that the proper course in this proceeding is to sever the Article 78 proceeding and transfer it to the Appellate Division because it raises a question of substantial evidence. Case law appears to require that Supreme Court determine the merits of the declaratory judgment action…. The parties should be able to stipulate to an order of severance and transfer.”
NYRA's friend-of-the-court filing that was accepted Sept. 9 stated that Rice is seeking “the annulment and vacatur of a decision from the Commission concluding she knowingly and intentionally received confidential information concerning Thoroughbred racing in New York State in violation of the Commission's rules and regulations…. [V]irtually all the salient allegations in this proceeding involve events occurring in New York and, specifically, at NYRA-operated Racetracks.
“For example, and of particular interest to NYRA, the Commission alleges Petitioner admittedly paid money to NYRA employees in its racing office at amounts that exceeded NYRA's gift threshold that was in place at the time. NYRA, therefore, has been directly affected by Petitioner's actions as at least one NYRA employee was terminated as a result of the events at issue here.”
The NYRA filing continued: “A preliminary injunction is a drastic remedy which should be granted only when the movant clearly shows a right to relief under the law and undisputed facts…. New York courts consistently deny motions for preliminary injunction where public policy concerns outweigh the potential hardships to the movant–particularly where, as here, available evidence indicates continuation of the status quo may itself pose a significant risk to the public….
“Put simply, the need to protect NYRA's patrons and the wagering public from the significant risk Petitioner poses to the fairness and integrity of Thoroughbred racing in New York State far outweighs any alleged hardships to Petitioner's business resulting from the suspension of her license,” the filing stated.